“…We are not interested in everything that happened in the past.
Primarily, we are interested in those aspects of the past.
which have significance for our present society.”
-Estrellita T. Muhi
Doing research about the historic past of Balete requires the patience of Job, the persistence of Sisyphus and the dexterity of a Benitinanon.1 This is so as can be seen and understood from the fact that unlike the towns of Batan and Altavas, to mention just a few, our predecessors and ancestors left us with no credible account whatsoever either oral or written of how our town came into being. We read in an old souvenir program one story telling us that Balete got its name from the Balete tree growing at the heart of the town. The story went to tell that when Spaniards happened to pass this place they inquired about its name. The natives, unable to comprehend the strange Castillan dialect made a wild guess. They thought that the strangers were after the name of the huge tree, so they responded informing them that it were “Balete.” Another account claimed that prominent families established Balete in June of 1812 when the parish priest Rev. Fr. Vicente “Amoy” Guanko arrived at Sitios Liboton and Bantayan together with “some Spanish Nationals.” It related that one Rosendo Eliserio was elected viva voce as the first Capitan. Further on, another story hailed October 24, 1897 as the historic day when the fabled or at least the mythical El Tiroteo de Agtawagon (literally, the skirmish of Agtawagon Hill) took place.
Although regarded as official, we cannot take these records as ipso facto history of Balete. With the use of historical methodology and scholarly research these accounts fell short of our expectations. The manuscripts we have at hand proved otherwise.
Several researches were made at the National Archives, the National Library, University of San Agustin-Iloilo, to mention a few, so to have a glimpse of the past. With these researches we were able to approximate the foundation of Balete as a pueblo (municipality) in 1826 when we were still a colony of Spain per the manuscripts Actas by Julian Peñalosa, et al. (undated), Alcaldias Mayores (1800? – 1889?), Errecciones de Pueblo de Capiz (1865-1894, 1862-1890), Memoria de la Provincia de Capiz, Año de 1888 and Patronatos (1759-1859). We also consulted the works of foremost historians like Fr. Juan de Medina (1893), Salvador Font (1892), Fr. Elviro Perez, OSA (1901), Fr. Hipolito Casiano, OSA (1919) and others to provide as a vantage point in discerning the processes we had undergone from being a mere visita of the parish of Batan to evolve later as a pueblo, then to revert as an arabal of New Washington until such time we became a municipality during the American colonization.
P. Don Vicente Guanco’s name appeared in the manuscript Erreciones de Pueblos 1865-1894 as parish priest of Balete, Capiz. The manuscript narrates a settlement of dispute over the boundaries of the pueblos of Banga and Balete at Nagatod Hill sometime on April 28, 1882. Those who were together with Fr. Guanko were Adriano Calizo, the governadorcillo of Balete at that time; Alejo Eliserio, Capitan Pasado; Agapito Borromeo, Cabeza Actual and Juan Oquendo, also a Cabeza Actual. An earlier manuscript, the Patronatos 1759 –1859 notes that P. Don Matias Piansay is being replaced by P. Diego Albao as curate of Balete Per letter of instructions dated August 25, 1856 by the Bishop of Cebu, F. Romualdo Jimeno.
By that time, Balete has 15,525 hectares of land where its total cultivated land are as yielded 200 cavans of palay more or less per season or cropping. The Memoria de la Provincia de Capiz (May 9, 1888) situates Balete as one among the 33 pueblos of Capiz. It says that epidemic is frequent in the community. For instance cholera a broke out sometime in 1882 that caused the lives of a total number of 144 people.
As was the custom of the time in view of the Royal Edict, there was no discernible separation between the Church and the State as the parish used to be responsible or had to be consulted for the appointment of a governadorcillo. Only in 1904 did it happen that an election took place in this part of the island when they landed few of Batang, Jimeno and Balete elected Mr. Juan Oquendo as the first Presidente Municipal of the newly formed Municipality of New Washington. But this was already during the American period when we were a mere arabal of New Washington (cf. Historical Data , roll # 17, 18 & 19).
It was said that when P. Don Vicente Guanco was parish priest, Balete was experiencing as sort of renaissance. We read in Historical Data that church made of bricks was constructed so as not to be outclassed by houses in the town which were said to be far better “than any of the neighboring towns.”
We have reasons to believe this telling by the very fact that the barrios within Balete were named after the landed few- the illustrados of Balete. Prominent among those were the names of Simeon Oquendo, Ponciano Concepcion, Carlos Feliciano, Adriano Calizo, Ambrocio Aranas, Juan Cortes, Marcelino Morales, Torebio Oquendo, Eulalio Feliciano, Juan Oquendo, who had been appointed governadorcillos at one time in their political careers. But it was said that the real power, the really influential among these members of a clan of illustrados who practically owned Balete was the low profiled mother of Blas Feliciano, Doña Florencia Feliciano who was a very good friend of Padre Guanco.
When the Katipuneros of General Ananias Diokno was driven out Batan in 1902, the Americans went to spread its own ideology by establishing schools. With the remnants of the Katipuneros captured or hiding in the hills and the civil government of the American imperialist established Gov. Gen. William H. Taft, in 1903 sent out his representative to reorganize the local governments throughout the country. In the Province of Capiz, he commissioned Benito Luzurriaga to reorganize the municipal government. When Luzurriaga and his companion arrived in Dominguez (Lagatic), a barrio of Batan, a barrio of Batan, they found the place suitable for the establishment
of a good port. In 1904 he directed to fuse Batan, Balete and Jemino into one municipality with it seat of government at Lagatic. But to make it more symbolic he renamed the place New Washington.
Immediately, election was held where only those landed few were allowed to cast votes. Prado (1952)relates that the first President Municipal was from Balete in the person of Mr. Juan Oquendo who was to serve for one year (1904-1905). Those who served after him were as follows:
Mr. Florencio Melecoton, 1906; (other texts either have Melecoto or Melecoton)
Mr. Ananias Mariano, 1907;
Mr. Blas Feliciano, 1908-1909; (Baleten-on)
Mr. Pedro Cortes, 1910-1916;
Mr. Eulalio Feliciano, 1916-1919; (the last Baleten-on to be elected as Presidente Municipal of New Washington)
Mr. Rufino Sucgang, 1920-1922.
The Research Committee of Altavas however recorded that Mr. Juan Oquendo was reelected in 1910. He was supposed to serve until 1916 as the term of office of local officials were made into five years. He failed even to complete a year as he resigned for unknown reason. In lieu, his vice-presidente, Mr. Pedro Cortes acted as the chief executive of New Washington until 1916.
On November 23, 1917, Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison creating the Municipality of Altavas (formerly Jemino) as the 32nd municipality of Capiz signed Executive Order No. 88. The sponsor for the creation was a Baleten-on - Sen. Jose Cortes Altavas. By January 1, 1918 the Municipality of Altavas officially came to be.
Prado (1952) relates that with the separation of Altavas, “Balete followed soon after”. Which date, that he was silent. The teachers of Balete in 1952 did mention in passing that Balete was established as a Municipality in 1917.This claim is doubtful as it runs contrary with the earlier claim of Prado.
On the other hand, Sergio Eliserio (who had served as Municipal Secretary of Balete from 1946 to 1958) in his report dated November 8, 1956 noted that Balete was an Arabal New Washington from 1904 to 1919. He then went to list the Presidentes Municipales and Councilors starting from 1920 to his time (1956). The officials of Balete in 1920 as identified by Eliserio were as follows:
Mr. Juan C. Oquendo, President;
Mr. Felipe Oquendo, Vice President;
Mr. Cipriano Lachica, Councilor;
Mr. Emeterio Fulgencio, Councilor;
Mr. Julio Villaruel, Councilor and
Mr. Mateo Feliciano, Councilor.
The first Municipal Mayor after the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth on November 15, 1935 was Jose Barrios (1938-1940). Miguel Calizo (1941-1945 and 1946-1947) followed him.
With the proclamation of the second Philippine Independence on July 4, 1946 and the rise of the second (or third as other historians would have it) Philippine Republic, Teodoro F. Calizo was elected Mayor (1948-1951 and 1952-1955). Apolinar H. Cleope (1956-1959), Teodoro F. Calizo (1960-1967), Bernardo J. Rodriguez (1968-1980), Jean O. Rodriguez (1980-1986). The other Presidentes were Felipe Oquendo (1921-1922), Miguel Calizo (1923-1925), Antonio T. Cortes (1926-1928), Felipe Oquendo (1929-1931), and Jose Feliciano Cortes (1932-1934 to 1935-1937).
Potenciano G. Rodriguez, M.D., was appointed OIC Mayor during the Revolutionary Government of Corazon Aquino. He was elected Mayor in January 18, 1987 and ended his term on June 29, 1998. Teodoro V. Calizo, Jr. run unopposed in May 1998 elections and assumes office on July 1, 1998. After three years of the term of office, he runs unopposed with the same position and ended his term on June 30, 2007. The present Municipal Mayor is Hon. Noemi C. Cordero assumes office last July 1, 2007.